Project approved for phase one of heritage and trail center

By Wendy Byerly Wood -

After already voting at a project update meeting in October to move forward with the first phase of work on the future Yadkin Valley Heritage Arts and Trail Center, the Elkin Board of Commissioners Monday unanimously voted on allocating $370, 970 of fund balance for the project.

The proposed work on the center, which will be housed in the former Smith-Phillips Lumber site on Standard Street downtown, will be handled by Garanco Inc. of Pilot Mountain.

The stabilization will include roofing work, demolition and roughing in elements for future addition of bathroom facilites and other needs, explained Leslie Schlender, economic development director for the town.

The first phase also will include asbestos abatement as it is needed, noted Schlender.

The proposal from Garanco presented in October also has phases two and three priced, which the board has not taken action on at this time. Those phases would include finishing the exterior and interior renovations and new parking areas, as well as working on the parking area to add curbing and guttering, sidewalks, signage and landscaping.

The building was purchased by the town in 2012, according to Schlender, who explained recently that an extensive planning process took place in 2013 to determine what the community wanted to see the property used for and to develop plans for its renovations in phases.

“While this work is going on, we are still in fundraising mode. We have grant applications still out there and we are waiting on them to be reviewed and to get letters of commitment back,” Schlender said.

She said many of those grantors want to see the town is invested in the project and this first funding of town money will help show their commitment to the end result and can be used as a match for grants which may require one.

Funding for the first phase of work was reviewed going into the 2015-16 fiscal year, which began July 1, but the board chose to hold off on a firm appropriation knowing it may have to approve a budget amendment for the work once bids were opened.

“I think everyone will be so happy seeing work happening,” she said. “I think when folks see this next phase happening and phases after that, I think morale and the positive reality of what’s going to happen will show.

“It is a prime location. It is the gateway into our town. Yes, some people enter town off Exit 85 and Walmart, but people also enter off Exit 82 through Jonesville.”

When the purchase of the property first was entertained several years ago, she said “various members of the community saw the potential and started talking with the owner who was able to offer us a discounted price to help us achieve this project.”

Mickey Boles, who owned the site, sold the land and buildings to the town for $115,000. “That purchase and how they structured it was very appealing,” said Schlender.

The site at the time had a chain-link fence surrounding it and a large lumber racking system on the corner. The town saw the opportunity as a way of controlling the look of the entrance to town, said the ED director.

When all phases are complete the center will provide a place for visitors “to come into town and hear our story and what we have to offer,” Schlender said.

Surry Community College will run its cultural arts programs through space at the center, and the National Park Service will have its interpretation information on the Overmountain Victory Trail on display. The town will be able to promote the center off the interstate as a national historic site, Schlender explained. “Then when they are here, we can tell them about our other trails —the Mountains to Sea Trail and the Stone Mountain trail,” she said.

“This is a facility you would expect in a mature wine destination. It is going to benefit the entire region. We want to make sure we do this right.”

By Wendy Byerly Wood